At a point of internal crisis in myself with my fears and worries, two friends from nature – an oak tree and a boulder – grounded me and brought me back to my Divine Self.
It was a particularly intense day at the 5-day silent retreat. A lot of fear arose within me from situations that were beyond my control. I had spiraled down into feeling guilt, shame, powerlessness, and a myriad of other painful emotions. It seemed they had all come up to be seen, felt, and released – except the release hadn’t come yet.
On our break, I took a walk down the suburban street, tears streaming down my face. I didn’t care who saw me in this state. I let them roll. This process was leading me somewhere, as were my feet, taking me to the place I found refuge in: the oaks and boulders at the nearby park.
My heart wanted to be in the limbs of one of the large live oaks that sprawled on the grounds, so I headed to the closest, most accessible one, and climbed aboard. It wasn’t very high, and I could lean back into her strength and sob. I heaved heavy sighs, trying to soften into her thick trunk.
My inner ear opened to listen to my wise old friend. I waited. Two words came to me – “I can”.
What is “I can”? Can what? What can a tree do? Well, it became clear – a tree can grow. That is what its main objective is, to continue to grow and expand. It knew how to do this from its very inception as an acorn, and that is the essential life goal for a grand oak; to continue to grow.
“I can – I can grow” I said to myself. It was an invitation to expand beyond these emotions, to grow and unfold into my Larger, Divine Self. I knew this was possible – I can grow.
Carefully, I made my way down the tree, leaping off the last couple of feet with a crunch into the compost; layers of the small, prickly, coast live oak leaves, almost a foot deep in places around the park. Months and years of growth lay there. The leaves had fallen off the branches and were decomposing slowly into the ground, while the grand old oak continued to stretch, unfold, and expand above.
Next, I turned toward the middle of the park, past the small playground with a swing and slide, to the large boulders. I wondered at how they were formed there. Was it a volcanic eruption? Or more likely pushed across the continent by vast glaciers. Who knows. Here they were, a mystery, but sitting submerged into the landscape, some as long as a bus and the tallest about 12-15 feet high or so.
That’s the boulder I headed for – the tallest one. I had figured out a pretty easy access up to its summit from around the back, scrambling over some smaller boulders and pulling myself up by hand holds and outcroppings. I felt great confidence in ascending to the top; it was joyful and empowering to overcome my doubt of my climbing abilities and fear of heights. Yes, I can, as the oak tree taught me.
Happily triumphant, I settled in on a slight dip in the granite surface, just right for my seated perch. Here, at this height, I could look across the expanse of the park, at the level of the high branches in the many other oaks, as if I were a bird meandering among the leaves and acorns.
Off to my right was one of the largest oaks, and beyond that, the lake. The lake that taught all of us in the retreat that miracles are possible. When we arrived, it was nearly dried up – just a small wet area on the far end where a lone white crane searched for a meal. The next day, a torrent of rain arrived, rarely seen in this arid part of southern California.
For an entire day and night, the rain drove through the small valley, blowing in waves it seemed, gently nourishing the parched, sandy red soil. The oaks and boulders happily received it. And so did this lake – in just 24 hrs, the entire thing filled up, and a goose as well as about a dozen ducks arrived, happily swimming about the waters and foraging. Yes, miracles can happen in a day.
So I knew that a grand transformation was possible – in the land, and in me. I sat on the boulder, heart and palms open, receptive to its message. And I heard: “I Am.”
The boulder’s gift was stillness, silence, Presence. As it sits, forever planted in this landscape, it simply is, and it knows that it is. It knows the power of Being. “I Am”, said the boulder. That was my message.
The messages of the oak and the boulder came together for me, in a sweet and simple way:
“I Can”, said the oak tree
“I Can Grow”.
“I AM” said the boulder.
And that’s all I need to know.
My body softened, and my energy settled down into the firm support of this enormous rock that I sat atop. I felt the boulder’s groundedness and stillness. My mind became silent, and I reveled in the peace and ease of simply Being.
I felt capable, strong, and expansive like the oak, while my Being was still, grounded, and steady, knowing that I already AM. There is nothing I need to do; but I can allow myself to expand and grow.
After several minutes of peace atop the boulder, I stood up, touching the high branch that reached across my perch. I thanked the tree, all the trees, and thanked the boulder. With confidence that I can, I ambled down the backside of the rock, over the smaller stones and into the crisp but giving groundcover of oak leaves.
As I walked back to the house where the retreat was held, I knew nothing had changed in the outer circumstances. But within me, I experienced a shift. I had returned to my Be-ing, my Divine Self within. The gifts from the oak tree and the boulder continued to reverberate through my mind and expand in a sense of solidness and strength through my body: I Can, and I Am.
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